BSU fans show their love

Boise mayor presents Broncos coach Chris Petersen with key to city

Idaho StatesmanJanuary 3, 2007 

Troy Howell wanted a crowd of Boise State University Broncos fans whipped into a frenzy Tuesday evening.

So the Meridian LDS seminary teacher — dressed in a Broncos letterman-style jacket and hat — raced up and down a gantlet of fans, frenetically waving his arms for screams and whistles.

"Go!" Howell hollered.

"Broncos!" the crowd called back.

Thousands gathered outside Bronco Stadium Tuesday to greet the Broncos after Monday's drama-filled Fiesta Bowl win that put "hook and lateral" into the lexicon of thousands of Idahoans.

Like the team, Broncos fans have a little more swagger now. At one point they chanted, "We want Ohio State," a reference to the top-ranked team — and only other undefeated team — in Division I college football. Ohio State plays in the BCS national championship game Monday. And so it was that coach Chris Petersen and members of his victorious football team returned to Bronco Stadium Tuesday. A police motorcade led several buses into the stadium parking lot.

Mayor Dave Bieter and Gov. Butch Otter greeted the coach. Bieter presented Petersen the key to the city, the "highest honor the city can bestow."

Fans held aloft signs reading "Way to go Broncos," "Blue Turf Boulevard," "Boise State Rocks" and "BSU Makes Oklahoma Blue."

Most fans wore Bronco shirts and hats, while some wrapped themselves in Bronco blankets or wore blue and orange beads. Others waved giant BSU flags.

Superfan Howell, who was breathing hard, admitted to having a headache and a sore throat from screaming. He'd only had about three hours sleep.

"I kept thinking about the game," said Howell, who just earned a master's degree from BSU last month. "The Broncos have brought us a lot of joy for the new year."

Kip Paulson, 10, donned a taco-shaped Fiesta Bowl hat; a prize his dad collected on his trip to the bowl game in Arizona.

"I like Ian Johnson. I love football," said Paulson, who wouldn't wear a coat over his Bronco jersey despite chilly temperatures.

Paulson's parents, Jim and Paula, got back to Boise about 3 a.m. Tuesday after attending the game in Glendale. But that wasn't enough Bronco time, so the family showed up to the late-afternoon rally.

"It's awesome for Boise. It's awesome for BSU," Paula Paulson said. "We showed the world we deserve a chance."

Diane Dragone was in the Spokane, Wash., airport when the game started and saw a sign of the national recognition this game brought BSU: A crowd of people huddled around an airport bar's small television watching the game.

"This definitely put Boise on the map," Dragone said.

Israel Ramirez, a child development counselor at the West YMCA, showed up two hours early to give the team an edible tribute. Children, kindergarten through sixth grade, in his afterschool program crafted a football field out of graham crackers, gumdrops, pretzels and frosting. Ramirez presented it to coach Petersen's wife when she got off the bus.

The kids are "going to think this is awesome," he said. "They're diehard BSU fans."

Kevin Kilbuck and his 9-year-old son, Hayden, flew back from their Fiesta Bowl trip at 3 p.m. but couldn't stay away from their team. They drove home, picked up the rest of the family and headed to the rally to scream for the Broncos one more time.

"I've still got a little bit of voice left, so I figured I'd use it," Kilbuck croaked, his voice shot from Fiesta Bowl cheering.

Many of the players went straight home for winter break after their Fiesta Bowl victory and didn't make the trip to Boise or the rally. But Bronco left guard Tad Miller, who attended Bishop Kelly, stepped off the bus Tuesday and called the reception "awesome."

"You couldn't ask for much more than this," he said.

The shortage of Bronco super-celebrities didn't stop fans from turning out to congratulate other players.

Bryon Brotzman, 18, a redshirt freshman out of Meridian High, signed every football, newspaper, shirt and patch of skin presented to him for an autograph.

"We heard there were a lot of people. This is nuts, though," Brotzman said. "We have the best fans, the best crowd in the nation. Nobody else has this."

Self-described "fanatic" Jim Gajdos sounded notes on a blue plastic trumpet and warded off the chill with a home-knitted blue, orange and white scarf.

Gajdos, who recently retired after driving Greyhound buses for more than 30 years, said he couldn't make it to the Fiesta Bowl, so Tuesday's rally was a good substitute.

"I think the main thing is to keep believing," he said.

The public adoration didn't come as a surprise to BSU President Bob Kustra.

"For weeks I've felt and heard the pride emanating from the community," Kustra said.

Before the team arrived, Bieter ran through the crowd giving high-fives. He said he's planning a big celebration for the Broncos after classes start at BSU. Details have yet to be worked out.

BSU and Boise have nothing left to prove, the mayor said.

"What's similar about the team and the city, we are not waiting for a time when we have arrived. We have arrived," he said. "We don't need outside vindication."

Contact reporter Kathleen Kreller at kkreller@idahostatesman.com or 377-6418 or reporter Heath Druzin at 373-6617 or hdruzin@idahostatesman.com.

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